Do You Still Have to Pay Child Support if Your Ex Remarries?

Paying child support can be one of the toughest challenges in divorce or custody cases for many parents. While sharing decision-making and time with your children post-divorce is hard, the financial aspect, particularly if payments go directly to the co-parent, can be equally daunting. If my ex remarries, does it affect child support? If you’re navigating this obligation, seeking clarity on such matters becomes crucial.

Typically, your final orders in a child custody or divorce case will spell out the specifics of your obligation to pay the support to your Co-parent. Your final decree of divorce in your suit affecting the parent-child relationship should include the date your child support obligation starts, the amount and duration of child support, and when the obligation ends. If your case has not yet ended, you should be sure to check for this in your final decree of divorce or other final orders before the end of your case. Going into a post-family law case life without an expectation of when the obligation to pay child support ends is not a good plan.

Child support in Texas can be a relatively straightforward process to determine how much child support you will end up owing to your Co-parent after a case. I say this because many people in Texas pay child support based on the statutory guidelines contained in the Texas family code. If your circumstances are abnormal, then differing from the guideline levels of support may be justified. However, many of us working in family law may overlook the fact that there could be extenuating circumstances that necessitate paying a non-guidelines level of support.

At the beginning of your case, speak to your attorney if you believe you’re in a circumstance where the guideline levels of child support should not be paid. They will evaluate your circumstances to determine whether or not this is correct. Nobody would argue that you want what is best for your children. However, it is reasonable to expect that you would not want to pay an unreasonable amount of child support to an ex-spouse or Co-parent after your family law case.

I’ve received the question more than once about whether child support is still owed even after your ex-spouse or co-parent re-marries. The thought is that when that parent has additional income coming from a spouse that your obligation should end. After all, your child now has three potential sets of income, whereas they only had two before. Is it correct that after your Co-parent marries or remarries that your obligation to pay child support ends?

Texas child support basics

We can’t have a good, worthwhile discussion on anything regarding child support before we understand what it is. In a Texas family law case, the ultimate aim regarding child support is to determine how much money you or your co-parent will pay to the other each month to support your child. This support is not meant to maintain the same lifestyle your child had while you were married, but rather to meet their basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing.

The state of Texas has established guidelines outlined in the Texas Family Code, aiming to provide your child with a reliable, consistent amount of support based on the available resources to you. The vast majority of Texas divorce and child custody cases utilized amounts of child support based on these guidelines. If you become the parent responsible for paying support, the court will first need to determine your net monthly income to assess the resources available for consideration.

Understanding Net Monthly Income for Child Support

Your wages and salary from your primary job are, for most people, the primary source of net monthly income. I would add commissions from sales jobs, tips, bonuses, and overtime pay as part of this discussion. Your child support obligation calculation must include substantial tips, bonuses, or sales commissions if you earn a low primary income.

Additionally, investments and their generated income contribute to your net monthly income assessment. This calculation considers dividends, interest, and capital gains from certain investments. Many of us are not able to have actualized gain on our investments to this point, but it is worth mentioning for those who may have substantial investments or maybe at a point in their lives where their investments are becoming vested.

Determining Self-Employment Income for Child Support

We have seen in this pandemic more and more people begin to work as independent contractors and as self-employed people. As tax season nears its end, it’s crucial to review the number of 1099s received from employers last year to ascertain if you qualify as self-employed. Totaling income from such sources is necessary to determine child support responsibilities. The challenge lies in the instability of self-employment income, which courts may not consider.

A common query pertains to whether Social Security, disability benefits, unemployment benefits, or workers’ compensation factor into the calculation of net monthly income. For child support in Texas, I can tell you that these benefits and payment methods do count as income and will be eligible to go into a net monthly income calculation for your child support. If you have a specific question about the sort of benefit you are receiving, you should ask your attorney very early on in your case so you have an idea of what may not count for calculating child support payments.

Intentional underemployment or unemployment

In a world where most of us are doing the best we can to earn as much of an income for our families as possible, it may come to surprise you that there are people out there who may be purposely working less and earning less money; as a result, then they would be capable of. This happens with some frequency in the world of child support cases. These parents, for whatever reason, would prefer to earn less money or work fewer hours at their current job to avoid paying whatever amount of child support they would have been obligated to do under their former income.

Considerations for Employment in Family Law Cases

This is different from having your hours cut or pay reduced due to something you can’t control, like a global pandemic. Please do not confuse what I am telling you today with what is going on with the pandemic and our economy. However, attorneys in family court judges quickly understand that a pandemic or any other factor can explain away not every reduction in income or a sudden drop in pay. My advice would be to be very careful about choosing your employment around the time of your family law case. If something seems off to an attorney or a family court judge when it comes to your income, then you are likely to suffer consequences.

Child Support Obligations and Unemployment

At the very least, even if you do become unemployed, whether purposefully or not, you will still have to pay child support. A family court would presume income based on earning the minimum wage, and your child support will be based on the net monthly income of a person who earns that much money. There are very few circumstances where an able-bodied, halfway competent parent would be able to avoid paying child support in a Texas child custody or divorce case. Whatever tricks or methods you have thought to employ overtime have been considered by many people before you and were not successful. My advice would always be to do the best you can for your children and be honest with your attorney about your income and assets.

What factors may cause guideline child support to not be in your child’s best interest?

The default setting for child support cases in Texas is that the guideline levels of support outlined in the Texas family code would be considered correct. This means that if push comes to shove. You and your Co-parent cannot agree on an amount of money to be paid for child support. It is likely a family court judge would do the basic calculations I provided you with at the beginning of this blog post to pay child support based on the guideline amounts.

Factors Affecting Child Support Orders in Texas

With that said, some circumstances can come into play where you may be ordered to pay either lower or higher than the guideline levels of support. The law in Texas is that a judge must consider all circumstances relevant to your case to make sure that applying the guideline levels of support is not contrary to your child’s best interests. Let’s walk through a handful of those factors so that we can discuss them briefly here in our blog post today.

I think the most obvious consideration is that a judge would look to both your and your Co parent’s abilities to provide for your children from a financial standpoint. This is where circumstances similar to those involving professional athletes and Hollywood actors can become somewhat relevant for you and your family. For instance, if your spouse has very little income-earning ability or a history of doing so, you are a physician, attorney, or higher-level income-earning person. You may be ordered to pay more than guideline levels of support by a family court judge. For that reason, if your spouse is making an offer to you for guideline levels of support to be paid in negotiations, it will be wise for you to consider that offer strongly.

Child Support Considerations for Extraordinary Needs

The court considers whether your child has extraordinary needs, be they physical or educational. For example, if your child requires additional resources from the school district, this should factor into your child support obligation. Similarly, consistent medical costs exceeding insurance coverage should be part of the assessment.

Conversely, significant expenses for visitation due to distance or other factors might lower your child support payments. Typically, these considerations don’t apply in most divorce or custody cases. Therefore, discussing these factors with your attorney early on is advisable for planning adjustments to your child support obligations.

What about remarriage?

The question that drew most of you to today’s blog post was whether or not their remarriage of your spouse who receives child support could impact whether or not you have an obligation to pay child support. The bottom line is that simply remarrying alone does not provide enough justification for a court to cease your obligation to pay child support. Again, additional factors must be in play for a court to consider dropping your obligation to pay child support or at least reducing it.

Effect of Children from Previous Relationships on Child Support

Earlier in today’s blog post, when we were discussing the obligation to pay child support, we did not discuss the effect of children outside of this current relationship or marriage. Having two children from a previous marriage in addition to the two children from your current marriage could reduce your child support obligation in the current divorce case. For the most part, an additional child outside of the court’s purview results in a 2.5 percent reduction in your child support obligation in your current case.

Consideration of Future Spouse Income in Child Support

When determining a child support obligation, the court will not consider the income of a future spouse. This could be a future spouse of yours or the person you are going through the current family law case with.

In a child custody case, the income of your co-parent’s spouse may influence the determination of your child support obligation to some extent. This is certainly something that you should discuss with your attorney if he believes it is a relevant consideration. A pure child custody case involving one married party does not come up that frequently so it is worth bringing up to your attorney to get their impression. Keep in mind that in a traditional modification case, this would not be a factor in my opinion and is not one that I’ve seen a court consider when determining child support in this type of situation.

Final Thoughts

In the intricate landscape of divorce and custody, the obligation to pay child support stands as a significant challenge for many parents. Beyond the emotional strains of co-parenting, the financial responsibilities can weigh heavily, particularly when payments directly support the co-parent. Amidst such complexities, questions may arise, such as “If my ex remarries does it affect child support?” Seeking clarity on these matters is vital for navigating the post-divorce terrain with understanding and confidence, ensuring that the best interests of the children remain at the forefront of decision-making processes.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Participating in these consultations allows you to gain insights into Texas family law and understand how a divorce or child custody case could impact your family’s situation. I appreciate your interest in our law office, and we hope that you will return tomorrow as we continue to share information about the world of Texas family law.

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